For my last night in Tokyo I wanted to check out something a little bit different from my norm…
And thankfully a couple of flyers in the hostel I was staying at gave me an idea of what that should be.
Cat cafés are particularly popular in Japan’s über busy urban centres, where pet ownership is often banned by landlords or simply not possible due to the cramped living spaces. As such, the chance to relax with some cat companionship is particularly popular, with Tokyo having around 40 cat cafes on it’s own.
Being a feline fan myself I was keen to check one out, and thankfully there were two in my nearby vicinity in Asakusa.
Admittedly though I was a little unsure of what to expect before heading in, and wondered if I might be strolling into to a strange, skanky cats play-pen populated with lonely cat-loving ladies, or a grotty feline den with poorly cared for cats on exhibition.
Thankfully when I arrived at Calaugh Cat Café all my fears quickly disappeared, as I opened the door to find a… Classy coffee house! Just one that happened to host a well groomed and cared for bunch of cats too.
Yes tucked up on the second floor of an Asakusa apartment block is a tiny, yet tidy lounge space where you can chill out with free Wi-Fi, books, food, drink and the company of several clean and cute cats. After being greeted by a lovely waitress I parked myself down on the large sofa and took in my surroundings.
My pre-visit doubts were also dispelled by the rest of the clientele chilling out in the jazz-bar styled lounge, as it looked like most of the customers were early to mid twenties just like myself. To my further relief there were also no traces of crazy cat women (or men!)…
It wasn’t long before the main occupants of the building made themselves known, and I was soon joined by a bouncy silver tabby who seemed pretty keen to play with the café hostess, and a rather more chilled black tom who decided to chill out on the sofa with me.
I was happy to hear that cameras were allowed, and made the most of being in close quarters with the cat “hosts” to get some sweet close-up snaps on my DSLR.
I couldn’t help but notice the big fluffy white ball of fur that was chilling out on the play frame located across from me. He was precariously perched on his platform, yet completely relaxed and snoozing away, oblivious to the rest of his companions and the customers.
Whilst I chilled out writing in my notebook and making a fellow travel blogger jealous on Twitter a black and white tom decided to come and make himself cosy on the sofa too. Although it turned out he wanted a particular spot – the one that was already inhabited by the snoozing black mog just along from me!
It might have been a bit pushy of him – although he did give his buddy a little clean first – but it made for a great photo opportunity for me. And another chance to score some more cute points from friends back home…
It was great to see just how relaxed and at home the cats all seemed to be, and seriously good to know that they felt safe around all the various people they must see each day. They were clearly well cared for, as they were all in great shape – there were no “mangy moggys” on show.
With plenty of food and water available around the café too there was no chance of the friendly felines being underfed and malnourished. It was also particularly reassuring to see a cat-flap that connected to another room away from the customer side, meaning that the cats could get away from the mog enthusiasts whenever they needed a break from being the entertainment.
The hosts seemed to really care for the cats too, always keeping a watchful eye on them to check they were okay, and also to keep the café spotlessly clean at all times. Not that I saw any accidents happen thankfully!
So as it turned out my initial uncertainty of quite what a cat café would entail turned out to be well unfounded. I had actually managed to stumble across a classy little coffee house with a chilled environment that was an ideal place to wile away a lazy Sunday night in Asakusa.
Whilst it was a little pricey – with a 600 yen entry fee after 6pm, and at 500 yen for a Coca-Cola – I was actually more than happy to pay that after seeing that it went towards keeping several cats well cared for and loved in the craziness of downtown Tokyo. Add to that the fact that it gives busy Tokyo cat fans the chance to spend time with furry felines that they might otherwise be denied in their home lives, and it’s just an all round good idea to be honest.
So yeah, I was glad I decided to check out that very Japanese fad of the cat café. I think the best way to sum it up would just be to say that it was a thoroughly pleasant experience.
And let’s be honest – cats are cool!
Calaugh Cat Café can be found opposite Burger King in Asakusa, near to the bridge over the Sumida river.
Have you ever been to a Japanese cat cafe? What did you think?